BMW i3 REx: owner's 3 years with range-extended electric car

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This week, my 2014 i3 REx turned three years old; I picked it up on May 21, 2014. For the most part I’ve been very pleased with the car.

It’s definitely not perfect, but then again no car is. It has fit my needs and driving demands perfectly and I only needed to drive on the range extender for about 2,700 of the 71,000 miles that I've driven the car.

When the i3 first launched, I was disappointed that the EPA range for the BEV was only 81 miles per charge. I had really expected BMW to deliver the i3 with 100 miles of range right from the start.

DON'T MISS: 2014 BMW i3 REx: Range-Extended Electric Car Drive Report, By First Owner (May 2014)

After all, the MINI-E and ActiveE trial lease programs that preceded the i3 both employed vehicles that were capable of 100 miles under favorable weather conditions. 

So when the EPA range rating was finally revealed, it was clear that I needed to get the optional range extender to satisfy my driving requirements.  After three years, I can definitely look back and say it was the right decision.

I may have only used the REx for 2,700 of those 71,000 miles, but when I needed it, I really needed it. Without the REx, there would have been many days when I didn’t use the car, for fear of not making my destination. I’d probably have about 15,000 less miles on the car than I do now.

2014 BMW i3 REx, scenic New Jersey, Apr 2015 [photo by owner Tom Moloughney]

2014 BMW i3 REx, scenic New Jersey, Apr 2015 [photo by owner Tom Moloughney]

Making a good electric car better

After living with my i3 for three years now, I have a good understanding of what I like about it, and what I’d like to see improved.

While overall I’ve been very pleased with the car, there are aspects that I’m not necessarily fond of.

Here are some of the things I believe BMW should change and/or improve to make the i3 even better.

READ THIS: Charging etiquette for electric-car drivers: what you need to know

More conventional tires

I understand what BMW was aiming for when they decided to use tall, thin tires on the i3.

The engineers were tasked with making the i3 the most efficient car available; the reduced drag from tires with a smaller cross-section helped them succeed, and the i3 held that global title for two years.

I’m sure wider tires would have cut a little into the efficiency, and perhaps cost a couple of miles of battery range, but in my opinion, they would have been worth it.

2014 BMW i3 REx range-extended electric car at 3 years [photo: owner Tom Moloughney]

2014 BMW i3 REx range-extended electric car at 3 years [photo: owner Tom Moloughney]

Better rubber would improve the handling and give the car a more planted feel. The i3’s tires are so thin that from time to time they tend to get caught in irregular grooves in the pavement, requiring the driver to make a correction. 

Also, the lack of a large contact patch makes the car feel skittish at highway speeds, especially in windy conditions. 

They're also seemingly more prone to sidewall damage, and even to picking up road debris like nails & screws. It may be hard to prove, but a lot of i3 owners complain about the frequency of flats they've experienced.

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I too have been hit by i3 flats; I've had a total of six flat tires in my three years. I don’t think I’ve had more than six flats total over 30 years of driving. So I’ve either had exceptionally bad luck, or there's something about these tires that makes them more prone to damage.

The i3 is the sole car that uses these unusually sized tires, so they're not made in high volume, and hence not always available.

Some BMW i3 owners have reported waiting three to four weeks for their dealer to get tires into stock.

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